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MLB Notes
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/22/2008 8:56:00 PM
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Hong-Chih Kuo is quietly having one of the best seasons as a reliever in major league baseball. Since April ended, he has a 35:3 K:BB ratio over 27 innings. Versus left-handers, heís posted a 23:0 K:BB ratio. Kuoís always had dominant stuff, but health and command issues have held him back. A role in middle relief has seemingly kept him off the DL, and a huge step in the control department has left him with a tidy 1.76 ERA on the year. He has a 10.4 K 9/IP mark for his career.

At 9-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, Kyle Lohse is having a fine season. Heís hardly the first guy to move to St. Louis and exceed expectations, but Lohseís component numbers suggest a major regression is soon in store. A 4.2 K 9/IP mark rarely leads to success, and the same is true with his 1.91:1 K:BB ratio. The Cardinalsí defense really helps, but itís best to proceed with caution.

Matt Cain has a 6.19 ERA during the first inning of games this season. Itís at 3.96 after that. Over the past three starts, he has a 25:3 K:BB ratio, which is a big deal for someone who typically struggles with command. Cain has lost a few mph off his fastball, but his changeup and curveball have improved, and he has a 1.18 WHIP in May and June. More wins should follow.

Randy Johnson gave up seven earned runs during a complete game Friday. Now thatís not easy to do.

Brett Myers is a human launching pad. After going four starts without allowing a home run, heís served up eight gopher balls over the past three starts, leaving him with a major league high 23 for the season. Despite inducing more groundballs than flyballs, Myers has allowed a staggering 2.08 HR 9/IP.

Billy Butler now has a .382/.455/.640 line at Triple-A this season. He should be recalled within the week and will be worth adding in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Whatever it means, Edgar Renteria has hit .273 as an American Leaguer versus .293 when playing in the Senior Circuit. His home runs have also dropped from one every 55 ABs to one every 67 ABs. And after Renteria recorded a career-low in SBs in Boston in 2005, heís on pace to finish with even fewer this season in Detroit. Itís safe to say the Braves got the better end of the Jair Jurrjens deal.

This is an interesting article, and one worth discussing.

In a Sports Illustrated survey of 495 Major League Baseball players in its June 23 issue, Derek Jeter was voted the most overrated player with 10 percent of the vote. Iíve heard numerous members of the media question the sanity of this verdict, but really, it seems about right to me. The main argument is calling him a ďwinner,Ē since heís been a part of four World Series titles. Umm, baseball is about as much of a team sport as there is, and he was consistently on the one with the highest payroll. Donít get me wrong, Jeterís one of the best hitting shortstops ever. But heís also been one of the gameís two-to-three worst fielders at his position over his career, and since heís now lost most of his power (.712 OPS this year), for someone making $21.6 million, heís a pretty big liability right now.

I recently wrote an article for Baseball Prospectus advocating punting saves. Check it out.


Interesting saves read. I agree to never pay seriously for the cat, but in roto-style 5x5 leagues, I'm not going to intentionally punt the category unless the prices are ridiculous when the bullets are flying. In the Yahoo Friends and Family League (12 teams, albeit with an IP cap and mandatory RP slots), I devoted very few resources into saves at the draft - just Billy Wagner (pick 100), Brian Wilson (165), Troy Percival (213) and Kerry Wood (220). Turns out I didn't need Wagner - throw Ryan Franklin into the mix as a FA grab and I'm 16 saves clear of the field (I've since traded Wagner and Wood). I'm not saying you can't win with a gimmick, but in theory I'd like to be a factor all over the board. Saves remain the *lowest* priority at the table and as you outlined, closers have tremendous volatility and they're all but worthless when they go bad, but rather than write off the market completely, I'll still go to the yard sale and see what I can find. Pay aggressively for saves? Nah. But give yourself a chance to get lucky, be it with guys who could win the job but haven't yet, or "stink closers" that no one likes (everyone laughs at Todd Jones and Joe Borowski, but look what they've returned over the last few years, against what they cost.)
Posted by spianow at 6/22/2008 11:15:00 PM
Another solid strategy is to target closers on "presumably" bad teams. The common fantasy public hasn't accepted the randomness of save opportunities, or grasped the idea that bad teams can still support a big year from a closer. Vegas had the lowest March over/under lines on the Orioles, Marlins, Pirates, Giants, Nationals, A's and Royals this spring. Target their closers and look what you get - Sherrill (25 saves), Gregg (13), Capps (17), Wilson (19), Street (13) and Soria (19). Yeah, Cordero crapped out, but if you got to Rauch quickly enough, there's 15 more. I'm sure no one on this list cost a lot in most leagues.
Posted by spianow at 6/22/2008 11:50:00 PM
Weird article. I liked the objective criteria used to evaluate LaDanian Tomlinson: "'He is super strong and can sprint like crazy,' said Mr. Heiden."

We all know about Myers' problems with home runs -- what is it attributable to, and how can he fix them?

As a Butler owner in three of my five leagues, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment that the Royals should throw him back into the fire. Owning Mat Gamel in two leagues, I think the Brewers should try him out at Triple-A soon!
Posted by bscwik at 6/23/2008 12:10:00 AM
3D was this a cheap attempt to get us to subscribe to baseball prospectus? I've never been an advocate of *punting* saves. I don't see how you can win any 12 team league with this strategy. I've seen it work in leagues with 20+ teams, I just think mathmatically you need some points in saves if you want to win overall. Every year I only draft one closer-with the knowledge that inevitably with injuries, poor performance I will pick up another closer. I think it was the same SI that had another poll I found more interesting-toughest guy (I think that Rowand won-you talked about a Yankee and not a Giant?).
Posted by kevinccp at 6/23/2008 4:57:00 AM
Brewers' assistant GM Gord Ash has already said that Gamel will stay in AA for the whole year. He already has 19 errors at third base, anyway, so he's not going to see Milwaukee this season anyway. Unless he gets traded, I doubt he starts next season in the majors either.
Posted by herbilk at 6/23/2008 6:21:00 AM
Spianow - Good stuff. I probably wouldn't punt saves either in a format like that - innings cap, smaller rosters with mandatory RP slots, etc...And you're right on about the closers on bad teams theory.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 7:43:00 AM
Bret - That's a funny LT quote. Regarding Myers, I guess my answer would be a lack of command (his walk rate is a career worst, so it stands to reason he's also missing over the plate) combined with a legitimate drop in velocity is leading to all these homers. Not sure how to fix that. But his K rate remains solid at least.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 7:46:00 AM
Kevin - I try to mix it up and write an article w/o mentioning a Giant once a month, but Rowand is def. tough.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 7:51:00 AM
I think I'm with spianow on punting saves, BUT if it works for you in Staff League 2 this year, which it still might, then I may reconsider.
Posted by MPStopa at 6/23/2008 8:48:00 AM
Whether you should punt saves depends entirely on the league parameters AND DEPTH. Because in a 10-team mixed league with 9 starters of any kind, you can get nine good starters and punting makes sense. But in a 15-team mixed league, you'll have a tough time finding nine starters who don't hurt your ERA and WHIP. While a closer with a 3.00 ERA in 70 IP doesn't HELP your ERA that much, a starter with a 5.30 ERA in 170 IP really HURTS it. So while you lose in Ks and wins, you get saves, ERA and WHIP. If you have a low-K starter instead, you can hurt two categories, barely help in Ks, and maybe get 9-12 wins at best. Contrast that with getting good ERA, WHIP, plenty of saves and 3-4 wins. The closer has a lot of value in that scenario.

Basically, the deeper the league, the more value closers have in my opinion. As you go shallower, and good starting pitching is more available, you can tank saves - certainly at your draft because you can pick them up later.

The other big issue with tanking ANY category including saves is the competitive balance of the league. In the RotoWire staff league where some teams dump and only half compete - you can't win with a "1" in saves. So the strategy won't work. In a very competitive league where everyone tries until the end, and no one dominates across the board, you can sometimes even tank two categories.

But in my experience competitive leagues like that are rare because people are in too many leagues, and if they're not running well, they throw in the towel. Which is a shame because it limits the strategic options available to everyone else.

Excellent article, though.

Posted by cliss at 6/23/2008 9:32:00 AM
That's a really good point Chris about depth of league being a major factor. You lose the wins/Ks benefit if you end up filling out the last few spots with middle relievers, and you lose ERA/WHIP if you fill them out w/ terrible SPs. I still think you can gain back the 4-5 save points in offense though.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 12:38:00 PM
I'm thinking the opposite. If your in a 12 team league, 5X5, automatically your playing for 48 points instead of 60. How are you going to win pitching with those numbers? If your in a deep league, let's say 20 teams for example, your playing for 80 points instead of 100. While the ratio is the same, I would think the higher the number of points, the more easier it would be to win pitching by tanking saves. I'm more with Scott-take a good closer, try to pick one up during the year but don't waste an early pick/money bidding for one. It is an overrated category, IMO. Dalton you didn't take a break from mentioning Giants, unless Cain got traded....
Posted by kevinccp at 6/23/2008 1:06:00 PM
In my home league I entered the season with ZERO closers (punt), hoping to be aggressive on FA wire and pick up a few points during the season. My decision was centered around the fact that we use a cap which the player prices are determined my TSN preseason magazine. With most opening day closers priced in high teens to upper 20's, I could not afford closers. I rarely pay more than $8 - $12 for a closer.

I traded for Jon Rauch(5), picked up Franklin(1)and Gonzalez (1), and I'm currently close to trading for Brian Wilson(12). I also grabbed Wheeler off FA wire briefly. All this bottom feeding has me in 10th place of 13 and if I land Wilson I believe I can pickup another 4 points if I can gain 10 saves on the guys in front of me.

For the record I am currently in 2nd place and hoping to push for championship by trading for some saves.
Posted by 25 ALIVE at 6/23/2008 1:11:00 PM
kevin - My bad (Cain). Even when I try to avoid talking SF, I still do. Good catch.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 1:32:00 PM
I'd rather read about Cain than see shirtless pics of Lincecum, lol.
Posted by kevinccp at 6/23/2008 2:25:00 PM
Better signing, Kyle Lohse at 1/5 or Carlos Silva at 4/48? Just another reason to bash Bavasi.

Posted by vtadave at 6/23/2008 3:19:00 PM
too harsh on act like he has been kicking balls around for the last 12 years. That is just not true. His range has gotten worse over the years but so did other greats like ripken and ozzy.
Posted by sgblank43 at 6/23/2008 6:46:00 PM
Jeter has consistently finished toward (if not at) the bottom for putouts at his position throughout his career. But don't take my word for it, plenty of research has been done in this area:
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/23/2008 8:43:00 PM
here's my question on saves (would love to see an analysis): are saves more likely to occur at home or on the road? it would be very helpful when deciding between closers to start (for example i have to choose each week between valverde and percival). I would think since the home team would be more likely to win there would be more saves (but this seems to run contrary to conclusion regarding closers on bad teams). Also, road teams may be slightly more likely to have saves because closers can still get saves in extra innings. would love to hear thoughts or an analysis. thanks.
Posted by mmahan at 6/24/2008 6:59:00 AM
I think you already came to the best conclusion I could: home teams probably have a cumulative better record, but only the road team can have a save chance if it's tied after eight innings. Seems like a wash.

I would start the closers with the best skill sets and ignore venue.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/24/2008 11:33:00 AM
I'm pretty sure Gene McCaffrey has done research showing more saves coming on the road. I'll drop him a line and see what he says. Gene McCaffrey, if you don't know him, is a great man and a helluva roto writer.
Posted by spianow at 6/24/2008 12:09:00 PM
Bill James is employed by the Red Sox...Btw, Jose Oquendo and Bobby meacham were great fielders as well. Go ahead take them over Jeter. It called intangibles separates the writers from the players. Good day sir.
Posted by sgblank43 at 6/24/2008 7:01:00 PM
So you're saying Jeter's poor defense is off set by his great locker room presence?
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/24/2008 7:57:00 PM
Jeter really is the most overrated player in the game, and it's important to understand what that means: his *actual* value is far less than his *perceived* value. He's still a great player, always has been. The "overrated" poll is an attempt to figure out where the widest gap is, and Jeter wins because, no fault of his own, he's been mythologized by so much of the common media. Really, it's impossible for him to live up to it at this point.

Ripken was also *grossly* overrated at the end of his career. I'm not saying he turned into Buddy Biancalana all of a sudden, just that he hit a point where the production didn't match the myth.
Posted by spianow at 6/24/2008 9:15:00 PM
I'm pretty sure Jeter is currently leading in votes for the All-Star game - for any position.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 6/25/2008 7:22:00 AM

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